A striking revelation has emerged in the Canadian political landscape, where numerous politicians have begun promoting an agenda supporting Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh state in India.
The movement, which has seen sporadic support from the Indian diaspora in Canada, has recently found champions among several lawmakers who, despite the divisive implications, seem to be uninformed of the broad consensus within the Indian community.
The Indian diaspora in Canada is one of the largest and most significant immigrant communities in the country, with its roots dating back to the late 19th century. As of the latest statistics available in 2021, there were approximately 1.4 million people of Indian origin residing in Canada. Among them, a significant proportion identify as Punjabi, the community that constitutes the largest ethnic group among Indian immigrants.
According to the 2016 Canadian Census, over 500,000 Canadians reported Punjabi as their mother tongue, highlighting the substantial presence of Punjabis in the country. This community has made significant contributions to Canadian society, economy, and culture, and their perspectives hold considerable influence within the broader discussions about India-Canada relations.
According to a recent survey conducted by Associates Times, only 2% of the Indian diaspora in Canada, most from Punjab, supports the Khalistan agenda. This minute fraction of supporters is in stark contrast with the overwhelming majority. Over 98% of respondents view the Khalistan movement as a device of anti-national elements designed to disrupt and distress the common public in Punjab.
Analysts fear that the Canadian politicians’ stance, seemingly guided more by short-term political calculations than a nuanced understanding of the complex realities on the ground, may have dire consequences in the coming times. They warn that these politicians’ endorsement of the Khalistan movement could unnecessarily fan the flames of an issue that is largely seen by the Indian community as a propaganda tool rather than a genuine call for independence.
The detailed survey conducted by Associates Times took place in several key regions of Canada with a significant Indian diaspora, primarily in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. In these regions, where many Punjabi Indians reside, a large number of respondents vehemently rejected the Khalistan propaganda. They expressed the belief that only a small group of people is driving the push for Khalistan, leading to suspicions of ulterior motives behind this agenda.
The survey results also unveiled unsettling information about certain high-profile Canadian politicians and individuals. Reportedly, these persons are using the Khalistan issue for personal gain, raising eyebrows about their true intentions. Some have been securing substantial funds from sympathisers of the Khalistan cause on a weekly or monthly basis, purportedly to aid families suffering back in India under government policies. However, the respondents cast doubts on whether these funds are being sent to India at all.
Several respondents pointed out an alarming trend: a few individuals who are unemployed are seemingly making millions by claiming they are collecting funds to support the struggling families in India. Instead of sending this aid to India as promised, they are allegedly pocketing these donations for personal enrichment. Some are said to be building houses and establishing businesses in Canada with these ill-gotten funds, amounting to large-scale fraud. The revelation has caused shockwaves throughout the community, raising questions about accountability and the true nature of the Khalistan movement in Canada.
Khalistan Risks Straining Bilateral Relations with India
Political support for Khalistan sympathisers from Canadian politicians may have far-reaching implications for the diplomatic relations between Canada and India. The bilateral relationship between these two countries has historically been cordial, with robust exchanges in the fields of trade, education, defence, and technology.
However, Canada’s apparent endorsement of the Khalistan movement can be viewed as interference in India’s internal affairs, which may potentially strain this relationship. As the survey indicates, a majority of the Indian diaspora in Canada disapproves of the Khalistan agenda, meaning that politicians who continue to support this movement could be jeopardising Canada’s standing with one of the world’s largest economies.
India has on multiple occasions communicated its concern to Canada about the support for the Khalistan movement from some Canadian entities. The Indian government has consistently held the position that the Khalistan issue is a matter of India’s internal affairs and that any support from foreign entities for separatist movements is unacceptable.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has expressed this stance in various diplomatic communications to the Canadian government. Further endorsement of the Khalistan cause by Canadian politicians may only serve to heighten tensions and could lead to a deterioration of the relationship between the two countries.
This has important implications not just at the diplomatic level, but also for the substantial Indian community residing in Canada, and the ongoing cultural and economic exchanges between the two nations.
The Khalistan Movement
Khalistan refers to a proposed independent state in the region of Punjab, spanning both sides of the India-Pakistan border, which would serve as a homeland for Sikhs. The concept was first conceived in the early 20th century, during the aftermath of the British colonial rule in India. The idea gained traction in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when a section of Sikhs, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, began a movement demanding an autonomous region within India or an outright independent state, due to perceived injustices and discrimination against Sikhs.
The movement peaked in the 1980s and early 1990s, marked by a period of violent insurgency in Punjab, which included the tragic events of Operation Blue Star in 1984, where the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar to remove Sikh separatists. This event, and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, further fueled the separatist movement. However, by the late 1990s, the movement had largely faded within India due to a combination of police action, public disapproval, and a loss of external support.
Bringing the history into the present context, it is important to note that the Khalistan movement in its most intense form has been largely dormant in India for the past few decades. The recent resurgence of the Khalistan issue, especially in the Canadian political landscape, is therefore seen by many in the Indian diaspora as a tool of manipulation. As the Associates Times survey reveals, the majority of the Indian community in Canada views the movement as a fringe element, not representative of the broader Sikh or Indian sentiment. The concerns about exploitation of this cause for personal gain, as alleged in the survey, further deepens the skepticism and distrust among the community towards those advocating for Khalistan.
Below is the complete list of survey questions with their respective percentage of respondents:
1. Do you support the Khalistan Movement?
– Yes: 2%
– No: 98%
2. Do you believe some politicians are using the Khalistan issue for personal gain?
– Yes: 65%
– No: 35%
3. Do you think the funds collected for Khalistan cause are not reaching the intended use in India?
– Yes: 70%
– No: 30%
4. Do you believe that Canadian support for the Khalistan movement could risk straining relations between Canada and India?
– Yes: 75%
– No: 25%
5. Do you believe the Khalistan movement is representative of the broader Indian diaspora sentiment in Canada?
– Yes: 10%
– No: 90%
6. Do you feel that individuals collecting funds for the Khalistan cause are misusing the funds for personal enrichment in Canada?
– Yes: 68%
– No: 32%
7. Do you think the Khalistan movement is causing distress among the common public in Punjab, India?
– Yes: 85%
– No: 15%
8. Do you perceive the Khalistan movement as a fringe element within the Canadian Indian diaspora?
– Yes: 92%
– No: 8%
9. Do you believe the ongoing advocacy for Khalistan in Canada accurately reflects the current sentiments in Punjab, India?
– Yes: 7%
– No: 93%
These questions with their respective “yes” or “no” responses provide a snapshot of the prevailing sentiment among the Indian diaspora in Canada regarding the Khalistan movement.
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